Projects

Currently, there are ongoing studies in the following domains:

Much of our learning is acquired on the way, that is, we pick up information without having the explicit intention to memorize. This type of learning is referred to as ‘incidental’ since it happens without a specific plan or instruction to do so.

In this research project, we will investigate the modulating effect of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on incidental learning in healthy young and elderly individuals as well as in patients with depression. Additionally, we plan to investigate the underlying neuronal mechanisms by applying tDCS and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) simultaneously.

Several studies in healthy aging and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have shown that increased activity in the hippocampus during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is associated with worse cognition and stronger accumulation of amyloid-ß over time. Pharmacological treatment of this hyperactivity in patients with MCI reduced excess activity and thereby improved memory, indicating a potential therapeutic target. However, pharmacological interventions have their disadvantages and limitations including side effects, reservations against medication, and non-response. A potential alternative might be real-time fMRI based neurofeedback, with which participants can learn to voluntarily ‘control’ region specific brain activity.

In this study, we will use real-time fMRI based neurofeedback in those with hippocampal hyperactivity in order to reduce this hyperactivity and thereby improve memory functioning.

Semantic verbal fluency tasks are among the most widely used measures to assess language abilities and executive functions. In the clinical setting, semantic verbal fluency tasks are predominantly analysed manually both in terms of quantitative (i.e., number of correct responses) and qualitative (i.e., clusters and switches) features. An automated analysis, however, allows the extraction of additional features.

The aims of this study will be to automatically extract features from speech recording of semantic verbal fluency data in healthy volunteers as well as in clinical populations (see here for the collaborating partner).

Prospective memory refers to a person’s ability to remember to perform an intention in the future. The successful application of prospective memory involves encoding a cue to action, and later detecting this cue to retrieve and execute the planned intention. Prospective memory is particularly relevant for elderly people due to its involvement in many health-related behaviours; for example, remembering to take medications.

This project aims to investigate the influence of motivation on prospective memory as well as to explore the underlying neural mechanisms.